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INSIDE THE STEPHENSON HOUSE - June 27, 2003

Hi! Henry the Stephenson House mouse is back again. I know I keep talking about "my" house to the point that you all must think I am bragging! I am just so happy with "my" house and I want everybody to hear about it and also come by and see the progress.
Last weekend Ol' Henry just hung out, enjoying the summer sausage that I know Keith and the guys left just for me. There sure is lots to be proud of around here! The porch has a great ceiling, a new concrete floor and I hear the columns should be arriving soon. The smokehouse is looking good and I am anxious to see it when the spire is on the roof for the final authentic touch. We sure are lucky we had the probate records that showed that Daniel Tolman had made a spire for the smokehouse!

Hey, here is a question and Henry here wonders if you know the answer! In what year were women allowed to own property in the State of Illinois? Do you know the answer? This question has been asked often and Stacey at the Papers of Abraham Lincoln in Springfield gave us the answer. Stacey told us that women in Illinois could always own property. It was when a woman married that she gave up her right to own, manage or sell property. Oh, oh!! When a woman married she became legally invisible and took on her husbands legal personality. In short, all property was now in the name of the husband. Hmmmmmm, says a girl mouse, what a bummer!

Karen asked why Lucy was named and signed deeds of sale if she did not own the property. The answer is that the wife signed because of her right of dower. If and when the husband died the widow was the manager of the property. The property buyer was aware of this and wanted the wife's signature on the deed so that there would not be a problem with ownership if she was widowed and was managing her share of the property. Just to be real sure the wife was not being forced into agreeing to the sale of property, the court official questioned her in private, to be certain the sale of property was okay with her. You see, there was the possibility that the husband would sell all the property without the wife's knowledge and she would be left a pauper if he died or disappeared. Golly, the wife and the buyer both had to be very alert!!

The married woman was legally invisible but as a widow she suddenly became visible. Now, Henry will do his best to explain what he knows about the widow's right to dower. I am just a mouse, ya' know! Dower was the right of the widow to hold and manage one-third of her deceased husband's estate during her lifetime and this gave her some financial security. So, the widow was the manager of her deceased husband's property. The widow did not own the property but held it for life. At her death her one-third dower went back to the estate and the heirs.

A widow could buy and sell additional property in her own name. This did not affect her dower right.

So, ladies, here is the bottom line: If a woman remained single she could buy and sell property. When she married she could no longer buy and sell, she could only use her right to dower to influence her husband's decisions about property. As a widow she could manage her one-third of the estate, her dower right, and receive the profits, but she could not sell this property. A widow could buy and sell additional property in her name just like she did when she was single. Gosh, maybe she could use the profits of her dower and buy more property in her name!

As a widow, Lucy Stephenson received her one-third dower right. The researchers are searching, but right now no one knows the extent of her dower right after Col. Ben's death and the probate settlement. Ol' Henry does know that Lucy was one sharp lady and when she moved to Carlinville she bought property in that area. Some of that property she later sold to some of her relatives. Lucy was a widow for 28 years and Henry here thinks that she invested wisely in property.

Well, we now have another question answered about life in the 1820's in Illinois. Henry says thank you to Stacey!

OK, did you all have a good time at the "Taste of Downtown Edwardsville"? I sure had a good time and stayed way late, searching for tidbits of the good food. Mary and her committee did an outstanding job and deserve many, many cheers!!! Henry loved seeing so many people visiting with friends and enjoying the food and music. Everyone, and I mean everyone, was raving about the Transit Center and how beautiful it looked. The red, white and blue flag decorations were absolutely great, and when the lights came on at dusk, the Transit Center was transformed into a wonderland. Talk about ambiance!

July 13th and Ben's Birthday Party are coming up soon. Yes sir, there will be homemade ice cream and cake for Col. Ben's birthday. Mary and her committee will be ready for the occasion once again. Henry here has heard that many of Col. Ben's relatives and friends will be at his birthday party. His family and friends from Edwardsville will be here and folks are arriving from Virginia and Washington - all dressed in authentic clothing from the 1820's. Now this is a party you do not want to miss!! Ol' Henry can't wait to see how the folk's dressed back then. I have listened to and know lots of stories from long ago but the clothes the people wore was something that great-great-great grandfather Samuel did not give much attention. Sure hope you stop by and if you care to bring a gift for Col. Ben, he could use a little cash in any amount because he needs a new staircase in his house. Maybe we can all help him out in his time of need! Oh, by the way, the Stephenson House will be open, so come Take-A-Peek!

I am heading for the smokehouse for a nap!

See ya" later,

Henry



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